Over one year later, Mercy Corps resumes program activities
For over a year, the Za’atari and Azraq camps have been under lockdown to limit the spread of the COVID‑19 disease. The lockdown and restriction on movements imposed by the government had negatively affected all aspects of life for Syrian refugees, including urgent medical needs, education, social gatherings, and recreational activities for children and youth. Most face-to-face service delivery to camp residents has been suspended since March 2020.
The pandemic has caused an alarming increase of livelihood risks since the majority of the refugees work in non-formal jobs and depend on daily wages for creating a living for themselves and their dependent family members. A recent study conducted by Mercy Corps revealed 62% of families in Za’atari camp were not always able to secure their families’ basic needs.
Children's education has been interrupted tremendously with the shift to online education; not all families are capable of covering their multiple school-aged children’s need for mobile devices and internet; this is due in part to the weak internet connection in the refugee camps besides families limited economic resources to sustain this need.
Moreover, the COVID‑19 pandemic has left a tremendous negative impact on the mental health and family relations of camp residents, especially on female caregivers. Feelings of intense fear, anxiety and extreme anger prevailed among male and female caregivers for prolonged weeks. According to Mercy Corps’ recent study, 46% of the caregivers in both camps reported feeling so afraid that nothing could calm them down as a result of the stress they experienced. 58% of camp residents reported that family relations have been negatively affected as a result of COVID‑19.
Early June, the government of Jordan started to gradually loosen restrictions on movements for the majority of sectors including recreational and sports centers, provided that health precautions are strictly followed by these centers and their visitors. Life began to resume as sector after sector were allowed to reopen.
With these long awaited changes for restriction on movement and permission for assembly, Mercy Corps and its program participants are relieved to be able to resume its psychosocial, mental health and family strengthening activities in both Za’atari and Azraq Camps with 50% capacity according to government regulations.
On June 21, 2021 Mercy Corps ISHRAK Project reopened its centers through in-person program sessions in Azraq and Za’atari camps. The program team set their plan for disseminating the good news for participants and started scheduling the specific sessions for different age groups of the family members. Psychosocial support programs that have resumed include, Family Superhero, Young Mothers, Brave Hearts, WISE Girls, Filmmaking, Cultural Heritage, and Sibling Support for Adolescent Girls in Emergencies. For each activity Mercy Corps hosts 10 participants per session through three main activities in Azraq and five in Za’atari camp. Priority is given to the children and youth due to the difficulties in reaching out to them remotely. Furthermore, a health focal person is assigned for each site to ensure that health protocol is applied.
According to Musab Ahmad Al-Rifae, ISHRAK site Supervisor with Mercy Corps in Azraq Camp “the community in general is in urgent need for psychosocial support - particularly with the COVID pandemic effect.” Musab mentions “Through Mercy Corps programs, which provide psychosocial and mental health support for all age groups, I observed that many participating families in Mercy Corps activities ask us to increase the number and intensity of sessions provided due to the great benefit they offered in alleviating families’ stress points during lockdown periods, including across all aspects of our lives.”
Mercy Corps programs in camps are helping parents in improving their relationships with their children, their neighbors and the local community at large, and reduce their profound stress amidst exacerbated socioeconomic conditions. Mercy Corps also provides access to education for children with disabilities.